Navigating change is inevitably challenging, but with this comes the opportunity to learn and grow. The modern world is constantly evolving and as such we are constantly having to learn to adapt.
Whether that be embracing the challenges of a new job, moving house, navigating the breakdown of a relationship, or letting go of the person you thought you once were, learning to navigate change effectively is hugely important for personal development.
In this chat, with special guests Remi Onabolu RVN, Dr Niall Connell FRCVS, and Diane James, Head of Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Service, we explored the many faces of change, how to navigate it, and what we can learn from it.
Key topics covered included
What does navigating change mean to you and why is it important?
Navigating change means learning to adapt. It means learning to accept that change is inevitable and that nothing ever stays the same. Change is the lynchpin of our existence and is what allows us to evolve.
Change can be daunting because it involves stepping into the unknown, but also allows room for growth. It allows you to learn about yourself and those around you. What works well and what doesn’t. It leads to positive progress.
How can we focus on the positives of change without detracting from the importance of past experiences?
Whilst some changes are positive, some can be painful. However, there is something to be taken from every experience.
There are two types of change:
- The changes you will try to make happen
- The changes that are forced upon you
Optimism and acceptance are key when navigating any kind of change. It is important to use the past and learn from previous mistakes but dwelling on the past is never helpful. Emotive past events can help guide you through new ones.
We are all constantly having to navigate change and therefore, when a new challenge arises, we must remember that we have all overcome challenges in life before and that we have the tools to guide us through.
Why do we find change hard and how can we prepare for it?
Change can be scary as it often comes with an uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty. It allows space for unhelpful ‘what if’ thoughts to start creeping in. However, it is important to remember that whilst you can prepare for planned changes, you must be ready to accept the things that are out of your control. Preparation and acceptance are key.
If you never try to make a change, you’ll never know if it will make things better or not. It’s often fear that stops us taking that leap so it’s important to keep an open mind.
Breaking seemingly huge changes down into chunks can be helpful. Take things one step at a time.
When it comes to grief, uncertainty, and changing circumstances, why do you think we feel the need to apportion blame?
Blame is the easiest option. If you put the blame on someone or something else, it feels like you can shift the responsibility. Apportioning blame gives uncertainty structure and reason, but we have to move away from it in order to look to the future. It can become very easy to fixate on the reason for something, rather than just accepting that things are the way they are.
Blame is part of the grief cycle. Although changes like the loss of a loved one aren’t usually anybody’s fault, blaming someone or something helps to ease guilt and rumination. Blame tends to happen when people are angry, rather than when they’re in denial and they often don’t think about the impact that this has on the person they are blaming.
In the veterinary world, owners who have lost a pet can become angry with the veterinary team even when it isn’t their fault. There are strong feelings on both sides and sometimes the feelings of both parties aren’t taken into account.
Services such as the Veterinary Client Mediation Service (VCMS) can be enormously useful, as they provide a platform to prevent people from apportioning blame. Mediation and communication are so important. It gives people perspective and the time and space to calm down.
What are the key similarities between change and grief?
The change curve is equal to the five stages of grief, but the difference between the two is quite profound. With grief, some days you will have good days, some days you will have bad days, but the loss is still always there. However, change is constantly evolving. Life goes on and will continue to change and evolve around grief.
What advice would you give to your younger self about navigating life’s changes?
- You’re stronger than you know. It’s important to appear confident and just do it, even when you’re doubting yourself. Everyone gets scared of change, but you are strong enough to cope with it. You will never discover what you are capable of unless you push yourself outside of your comfort zone.
- When you feel like you’re lacking confidence and everyone else appears self-assured, remember that everyone is feeling the same inside. Appearing confident and feeling confident are not the same thing.
- Develop strong support networks and remember to talk to others. Even if you can’t talk to you friends or family, talking it out with other people is really helpful. You are never alone and there will always be someone else who has felt or feels the same way you do.
- Practice gratitude and look back to remember how far you’ve come.
Tips and resources:
- Keep a record of past achievements and events you had to learn to navigate. This will give you something to look back on as a reminder to yourself that you’re capable of navigating even the biggest of changes. This can be done through journalling or using an app like Daylio.
- The Veterinary Client Mediation Service (VCMS) is a voluntary, independent and free complaint mediation service for clients whose animals have received veterinary care and for the veterinary professionals providing that care. Using the process of mediation, VCMS offer help and guidance to resolve complaints in a fair, cost-efficient manner that is unbiased and non-judgemental.
- Poem: The Desiderata
- Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation: The 5 Stages of Grief and The Change Curve
- Dr Lois Tonkin – Growing Around Grief
For a more extensive list of resources, please visit our Mind Matters Help & Advice page.